Homily by The Rev. Marcia McRae
St. Francis Episcopal Church, Goldsboro, NC; 3rd Sunday after Epiphany, 22 Jan. 2017
Year A RCL: Isaiah 9:1-4; Psalm 27:1, 5-13; 1 Corinthians 1:10-18; Matthew 4:12-23
Who is it Jesus recruits to work with him? Professional marketers?
In our Gospel Jesus calls regular people to join in his work. The Jesus Movement relies on regular people. Peter & Andrew, James & John are regular people, who catch fish to make a living. As far as we know, these fishermen are not even tournament winners.
A fly fisherman friend says his experience in a fishing competition was a lot of fun without his winning anything. He says:
You don't have to be famous or win competitions to enjoy fishing. You don't even have to catch anything to enjoy a special relationship with God's creation. He says:
Catching fish is not a given.
If it were, we'd call fishermen “catchermen.”
Working to accomplish God's purpose, Jesus calls us as part of his fishing crew. Our call is to work with Jesus as best we can & trust the results to God. We are a 21st century part of the process God set in motion & declared accomplished.
Notice the Good News we hear in Isaiah:The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.
The Jewish Study Bible says Isaiah writes of a future hope & uses the past tense because [these events] “are as good as done.” 1
We read in Genesis: “in the beginning, God said...& it was so.” The perfection God calls into being in the beginning is being accomplished.
As people of faith, guided by the Holy Spirit, we can accept God's promises & not wring our hands in fear about the size of our catch.
Not wringing our hands gives us strength to hold the flashlight, the torch, the floodlight
to shine the Light of God's Love into darkness.
Notice: Our scriptures today emphasize light overcoming darkness. Jesus' death & resurrection make it possible for people in darkness to see great light. Jesus says in his dying breath: “It is accomplished.”
As God's adopted children, you & I use our gifts & abilities in our lives, our work, our interactions. We do this individually & in our worship, study groups, social events, & business meetings [such as our Vestry Retreat just completed yesterday], using our gift of love to see & love Jesus in each other.
Notice: the Corinthians Paul writes to have quit seeing & loving Jesus in each other, basing quarrels & claims of self-importance on relationships to So-&-So.
Feeling proud Paul baptized you? How do you feel to hear him say:
I thank God I didn't baptize any of you except So-&-So & So-&-So.
Oh, I did baptize So-&-So's household;
other than that, I don't know if I baptized anyone else.
So much for your feeling great about being baptized by the famous apostle Paul. Puffed up one minute because you know he baptized you & deflated the next by Paul himself!
Paul knows priding ourselves on status causes divisions. It keeps us from seeing & loving Jesus in each other. Paul knows a lot about divisions: Corinth has lots of divisions, as author Luke Timothy Johnson says in The Writings of the New Testament.
Multi-cultural Corinth has a variety of people, including some with Jewish backgrounds, some pagans. People focus on differences instead of their common life 2 & unity in Jesus.
Our unity in Jesus defines us.
Paul says: “I appeal to you, brothers & sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ...be united...”
Our unity in Jesus compels us to share the Good News, to shine the Light for people in darkness.
Our unity in Jesus relies on our diversity.
Our diverse gifts make us a whole & fully functional Body. Consider our gifts in light of what author Anthony Shadid says of the specialness of creative arts in his book House of Stone: A Memoir of Home, Family, and a Lost Middle East. He says, creative arts produce beautiful & functional items – items he describes as
“the products of peaceful hearts,
hands long practiced & trained.” 3
“I believe . . . the craftsman, the artist, the cook, . . . are peacemakers. They instill grace; they lull the world to calm.”4
. . . the craftsman, the artist, the cook, . . .
They instill grace; they lull the world to calm.”
I see craftsmen, artists & cooks differently now. I see them as peacemakers.
We are a body strong in peacemakers, in individuals with grace to lull the world to calm. I see this Body of Christ has unity to do the work God gives us: to share the Good News of Jesus & draw others into this “net”, this fellowship in this Body, others who may be different & have new gifts God wants us to have here.
Remember: Jesus calls regular people to join in his work of transforming the world. Our unity in Jesus defines us & strengthens us. God calls us to be a fully functioning Body of Christ, using our diverse gifts which make us whole.
The Holy Eucharist we share is a gift that unites us as one Body.
As we share this holy meal today, may we give God thanks for our diversity & our unity to guide us in our life together so that our love may overflow more & more with knowledge & full insight to help us determine what is best.5
What is God calling you to do so
that our love may overflow more & more with knowledge & full insight to help us determine what is best?
Brown, Raymond E. An Introduction to the New Testament. New York: Doubleday. 1997.
Brueggemann, Walter. The Prophetic Imagination. 2nd Edition. Minneapolis: Fortress Press. 2001.
Holy Bible with the Apocrypha. New Revised Standard Version. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989.
Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society TANAKH Translation. New York: Oxford University Press. 2004.
Johnson, Luke Timothy. The Writings of the New Testament: An Interpretation. Revised Ed. Minneapolis: Fortress Press. 1999.
New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha. Herbert G. May, Bruce M. Metzger, eds. New York: Oxford University Press, Incorporated, 1977.
Shadid, Anthony. House of Stone: A Memoir of Home, Family, and a Lost Middle East. New York: Mariner Books Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
1 Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society TANAKH Translation. P. 801.
2 Johnson. Luke Timothy. The Writings of the New Testament:An Interpretation. P. 296, 297.
3 Shadid, Anthony. House of Stone: A Memoir of Home, Family, and a Lost Middle East. P. 118.
5 Paraphrase of Philippians 1:9-10.